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order, while it did good in some cases, also
robbed the poor boys of the improvement and
of the many acts of kindness which they had
experienced at the hands of the better sort of
men. But discrimination takes time and
requires consideration and patience, and the
authorities had as much of these qualities as
of taste for music.

But if this neglect tended to do the choristers
serious mischief, the over-officiousness
with which they were cared for by some
well-intentioned, but injudicious undergraduates,
did little less. It is bad policy
which teaches a boy to be a man before
his time  and this was the infallible result
of mingling with uproarious collegians.
Clever boys, who, by the care of their
parents and of a few sound friends, had been
enabled to surmount the difficulties which
neglect had placed in their way, went to college,
but soon lost sight of the purpose for which
they had come, and which had induced their
friends to send them thither. In some
instances, there was scarcely an extravagant
habit with which they were not already
acquainted, and it was even doubtful whether
they had escaped vice itself. The younger
boys, accustomed to be asked out for the
sake of their singing, learnt abundance of
forwardness and self-sufficiency, without,
however, acquiring the simple "good manners"
which a boy ought to learn by contact with
his seniors. So often and in so many places
has this been observed, that chorister boys
are constantly held up, indiscriminately, as
the very incarnation of boyish impudence
and irregularity. Even in some colleges,
where the noble and spirited efforts of the
fellows have raised the boys' school to the
possession of the highest educational advantages,
this mischievous want of restraint overthrows
half the good that would be done, and makes
precocious, disreputable little men, instead of
honourable, well-disposed, and well-conducted

Thus the caged birds of St. Vorax lived
on, deriving as much benefit from the Chapter
as the sight of their gowns might be supposed
to infuse; shut out from the world, and with
no instruction how to create a world of their
own. A few grew up respectably. So strong
was the force of nature that even the neglect of
a Chapter could not spoil it. A larger number
gained just enough education to be fit for
nothing at all, and to become cast-aways
without even the chances of college men of
settling into a situation in the Treasury, or
being, as a last resource, ordained clergymen
of the Church of England.

Yet, with all these miserable results of
their own neglect before their eyes, the Dean
and Chapter contrasted themselves virtuously
and proudly with other establishments. Like
the agricultural nobleman, who despised his
neighbour for paying his labourers only seven
shillings a week, while he paid his men seven
and sixpence, so the Dean held that the
bestowal of a chorister's place was a white
day in a boy's life; and he dispensed other
people's money with a sublime, patronising,
severe, and awe-inspiring air, which nothing
short of Cathedral infallibility could have
assumed. When once a boy became a
chorister all connexion with the authorities (save
when punishment was involved) ceased. He
learnt, or did not learn, as circumstances
ordered; and, when his voice cracked, he was
sent away.

Rumour and more than rumour was
afloat, that, had anything like a proportionate
increase been made in the funds originally
bestowed on the choristers by the statutes
of the founder, the Dean and Chapter
would have had something less, and the
boys a great deal more, than at present.
It was even said that the money already
misappropriated from time to time would
have founded half-a-dozen or more good
University exhibitions; and that an efficient
master and second master, at decent salaries,
would likewise have been possibilities. But
St. Vorax was not in the habit of refunding
anything; and even when it made the smallest
concession, it did so, not as an act of simple
justice, but as a matter of exalted condescension
and munificence. It never gave away
anything that was worth keeping within its
own magic circle; and it would have been a
degradation for one of their relations to act
as teacher to boys supported out of the same
charity as themselves; consequently the school-
master was a stranger, who had to exist upon
thirty pounds a year.

It is surely time that this gross neglect, or
injudicious treatment of boys, placed, as it
were, in the very bosom of ecclesiastical
establishments for intellectual and religious
nurture, should cease. How long will those
clergy, whom it is fashionable to ask to
preach charity sermons, continue to be a
practical satire on the precepts of Him
who once said, "Feed my lambs?" Let
us hope that our "singing-birds" will, ere
long, be set free from their cage of neglect,
poverty, and ignorance, or from the equally
dangerous pampering of injudicious
companionship. Let us hope, and believe, that
the nests built by the tenderness of our
ancestors for these singing-birds may again
be rebuilt by the justice of our own times;
and that when we listen to their voices, and
contemplate their chubby faces, we may
gladden our hearts with the knowledge that
they are no longer neglected.

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